News 3 investigates high rate of unvaccinated staff inside nursing homes around Hampton Roads

Posted at 5:00 PM, Sep 18, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-22 11:36:02-04

HAMPTON ROADS, Va. - The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid released a report showing the percentage of staff and residents who are vaccinated in nursing homes around the country.

News 3 found several local facilities with low staff vaccination rates.

Chesapeake resident Cheryl Davis said she is worried about her 66-year-old brother, Gary Sessoms, who has cerebral palsy. She said he lives at the Autumn Care of Portsmouth facility and needs around-the-clock care.

Davis said he survived COVID-19, but he lost a significant amount of weight and hasn’t been the same.

“I’m very concerned at this point,” said Davis. “I’m worried that if my brother catches this again, it could take him out this time.”

Sessoms is one of the 1.3 million Americans living in a nursing home, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

A report from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services exposes vaccination rates for staff and residents.

As of September 16, 2021, the national average for residents in nursing homes is 84%, and vaccination rates for staff are at 64%.

President Joe Biden announced a mandate that threatens to take away funds if workers aren’t vaccinated. Details are being worked out now, and several nursing homes that we spoke to said they anticipate a major influx in the number of staff that is vaccinated.

“The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid is very serious about the staff at nursing homes being fully vaccinated and the residents,” said Dr. Edward Oldfield, a professor of medicine at EVMS.

News 3 found several local facilities on the federal report that were below the national average, along with a handful with only 20% or 30% of staff who have been reportedly vaccinated.

“We're in the midst of a serious surge, and you don't want your elderly family members in a nursing home where the staff are not fully vaccinated,” said Oldfield.

He said he is concerned and shocked by some of the numbers on the federal report.

“If I hadn't happened to go on that website, I would have no idea this was happening. I would have had the assumption that, of course, the staffers are vaccinated and the residents are vaccinated, and I would have had no idea that there's such variation,” said Oldfield.

You can go to the website link on the data and search the name of the nursing home and find out different statistics being reported to the federal government.

As of September 21, the federal report states that Autumn Care of Portsmouth has 71% of residents vaccinated and 19.8 % of staff vaccinated.

The report states Autumn Care of Norfolk is listed as having 48.1% of residents vaccinated and 23.6% of staff vaccinated. The two locations are run by Saber Healthcare Group.

The company has several facilities in the region.

We asked them to confirm the numbers in the federal report. We are waiting to hear back.

They previously issued the following statement sent on behalf of Autumn Care of Portsmouth, Autumn Care of Norfolk, Portside Health & Rehab, Colonial Health and Rehab, Waterside Health & Rehab and Rosemont Health & Rehab Center:

“Each facility strongly encourages and recommends vaccination for all staff and residents. We have the ability to offer vaccination through a partnership with CVS. Anyone wishing to be vaccinated can obtain a vaccine. We continue to work closely with the Department of Health and follow all local, state and federal guidelines and regulations.”

News 3 reached out to several organizations that fell below the national average.

A representative from the Garden at Warwick Forest located in Newport News said 47.4% is reflective of team member vaccinations reported for the week ending September 5, 2021, and the number increased to 60% of team member vaccinations which was reported data for the week ending on September 12, 2021.

The federal report listed them as having 125 resident cases of COVID-19, 28 resident deaths from COVID-19 and 76 staff cases of COVID-19.

Garden at Warwick Forest released the following statement:

“After reviewing the federal report in more detail, the information regarding COVID-19 related infections and death incorporates data dating before vaccines (March 2020). While accurate overall, Riverside Health System has seen a tremendously positive shift in resident and staff health since the vaccines became available. Since the distribution of the COVID-19 vaccines amongst staff and residents (December 2020/January 2021), the Gardens of Warwick Forest has experienced low and infrequent COVID-19 outbreaks and no COVID-related deaths, as noted in Riverside’s COVID-19 Status Report. As of September 12, 2021, Riverside’s Gardens of Warwick Forest staff vaccination rate is over 60%, with a residential vaccination rate similarly above its national average. The vaccines have been essential in protecting our residents, staff and community, which is why we recently aligned with several other local health organizations and updated our vaccination policy to include COVID-19 for all team members. We continue to provide education and access for team members and the community so they can obtain the vaccine, and we strongly encourage all team and community members who have not yet received the vaccine to do so for the greater public health. For more information about the vaccine, please visit”
Garden at Warwick Forest

As of September 16, the federal report stated that Bon Secours-Maryview Nursing Care Center in Suffolk had 62.4% of residents with a vaccine and 57.5% of staff with a vaccine.

We reached out asking about the vaccination rate and policies. Here is the response:

“Bon Secours is committed to the health and well-being of our patients, residents, associates and communities. Given the recent announcement regarding federal vaccination requirements, we will continue to monitor developments and work to better understand the implications in the weeks to come, remaining in compliance with any local, state and federal requirements. Now and always, the health and safety of our associates, residents, patients and communities are our top priority. Bon Secours follows infection prevention protocols provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) and the Virginia Department of Health for mitigating the spread of COVID-19. We currently require all individuals in our facilities to wear a mask, regardless of vaccination status, and adhere to recommended personal protective equipment, hand hygiene and physical distancing.”
Bon Secours-Maryview Nursing Care Center

Several facilities are run by Consulate Health Care and Accordius Health. Calls and emails were not returned from those companies.

“It’s hard for me to imagine how you could have such a low rate of vaccination. I don't know whether they're not recording appropriately or it's just the population they have,” said Oldfield.

Through our investigation, three nursing homes told News 3 the information on the federal report was incorrect and they were working to fix the numbers.

James River Convalescent Center also told News 3 the staff vaccination rate is not correct for their facility as of September 16 and they were working to correct the issue.

Bayside of Poquoson Health and Rehab said they had 54 COVID-19 related deaths listed on the federal report when in fact they had eight deaths. They said the information was entered incorrectly.

They also had high rates of vaccinations, reporting that 100% of staff and 100% of residents are vaccinated.

Bayside of Poquoson Health and Rehab is run by Trio Healthcare.

Senior Vice President Alan Cosby said, “We've been relentless as an organization, promoting the vaccine since it became available. Not all buildings are at 100%, and they will be.”

Cosby said his company made the vaccine easy to get, worked hard to educate staff and created a campaign called "I Did it For..."

“We highlighted our people in our buildings that got the vaccine,” said Cosby.

He said a small number of employees left because they didn’t want the vaccine and says some have been hesitant.

"You listen and try to understand their perspective, but at the end of the day, we've got to do what's right and our belief - take care of as many people as we can. That's why we ultimately mandated the vaccine,” said Cosby.

Experts say the fear of being understaffed or infringing on personal rights had previously prevented companies from requiring the vaccine. Dr. Oldfield believes those in nursing homes need extra protection.

“How COVID gets into a facility is generally the staff. The staff gets infected in the community; they bring it into the nursing home,” said Oldfield. “Those unvaccinated are the ones that are ending up the hospital, ending up in the intensive care unit and potentially dying of COVID. Vaccination is absolutely critical.”

News 3 reached out to the Virginia Health Care Association about this topic. They issued the following statement:

Virginia nursing homes have made extraordinary progress in the fight against COVID-19 over the past year and a half. We are grateful that across Virginia the majority of our staff recognized the importance of getting vaccinated—not only to protect themselves but to protect those around them.

Every week since reporting, staff vaccination rates were made public in mid-June, we have seen an increase in the statewide nursing home staff vaccination rate, which currently stands at 71.6% (for the week ending August 22).

VHCA-VCAL supports efforts to get more people vaccinated—both nursing home staff and those in the community. We know that the community spread of the virus is a primary cause of cases in nursing homes. We all have a role to play to ensure as many people as possible are made safe through the effective use of vaccines.
Virginia Health Care Association

"Since the vaccines became available, we knew that our employees would have legitimate questions and concerns. Each person is unique, and it is important to understand their perspective and gain their trust. Nursing home administrators continue to listen to staff members and speak with them directly about the importance of getting vaccinated," said Amy Hewett, CAE.

Click here for our full coronavirus coverage.